The Bridge - McLeod's Crossing

Artist Statement

Henderson is the city centre of Waitakere City, New Zealand's fifth-largest and fastest-growing city. It lies between the densely forested Waitakere Ranges to the west and the Waitemata Harbour to the east. Two streams from the kauri-forested ranges flow through Henderson; the Opanuku and the Oratia. They meet at a point a short distance below the city centre. On the delta above their confluence is the city aquatic centre, the library, and various other community buildings. A major events centre is planned here in the future.

It was on this delta one hundred years ago that Mr Henderson built his sawmill that served the entire area and cut the majority of the kauri timber logged from the Waitakere Ranges. The mill soon became the centre of a growing town as farming took over on the cleared land from the harbour to the foothills.

In the early days of the settlement it was easier to travel from Auckland to Henderson by small yacht or launch, sailing up the stream from Te Atatu with the tide and anchoring in the big pool adjacent to the Falls Park. From there visitors could walk half a mile to the Falls Hotel (now resited in the Falls Park) which was used as a staging post for overland visits to the famous Waitakere Falls.

My historic research showed that Henderson has had quite a few substantial bridges over the years as both the streams are prone to flash flooding. It was especially pleasing to me to know that I was involved in a new bridge that would become well-known and well-used, and I hoped in time, well-loved. I wanted my design to reflect the early history of the Henderson area, but at the same time to be a modern and aesthetically-pleasing bridge reflecting the busy life in our modern city.

The liaison with an architect and an engineer proved very exciting and this team developed my concept drawings with aesthetic and structural accuracy. My ideas were always met with enthusiasm and when alternative solutions were offered to details of the design we were able to reach agreement easily. Liaison with Council staff Naomi McLeary (Arts) and Heather McNutt (Parks) was critical for the success of the project. To direct a design and build team and see the project to successful conclusion is always a difficult process and in my experience this project has worked exceptionally well. At all times I was encouraged to pursue my concept design, not to compromise my art work and to extend my influence to every part of the bridge design.

I have been particularly impressed with the way the Council has reinstated the area so quickly after completion of the bridge, so that now after three or four weeks the bridge looks as if it has been there for years. Stream restoration and planting of the banks with native plants has made the Falls Park a place of beauty, tranquillity and sanctuary in the centre of this busy city. The Eco City is to be congratulated for its initiative in adding value through art and culture to city infrastructure projects.

It was a great honour for me to be involved in the design of this wonderful bridge over the Oratia Stream. The dawn opening of the bridge by tangata whenua was a very real and moving experience for the one hundred guests, and everyone present was impressed with the way that Waitakere City Council honours its artists. I would encourage other cities in New Zealand to consider this project as a model for future development in their region.

John Edgar
Karekare, June, 2000